Kongregate, of San Francisco, launches tomorrow with a host of Web games targeted at young males with social networking components pushing new bounds.
Kongregate is signifiacant because it targets a group that until now hasn’t been served by online social games. Social gaming has been the domain of women, especially older women (served by companies like Club Pogo, owned by Electronics Arts). Young males searching social action games have had to download large software programs to their computer, such as World of Warcraft. Or they’ve played on Xbox Live, where games cost in the millions of dollars to develop — they have social components, but users have little input into the development of those games, and features.
Kongregate calls itself the YouTube of game platforms. It is entirely Web-based, and users provide input. Kongregate lets gamers chat with each other, and even chat with the developers of the games. Anyone can submit a game to Kongregate to be licensed. Kongregate lets gamers comment on and rate the games; hot games climb to the top of the home page. Kongregate’s management then offers contests, giving users who perform points and cards they can use to enter elite play-offs. Developers, meanwhile, get a cut of any profits, which come from advertising.
Kongregate launched a test version in October, but already has licensed 300 games, many of them compelling, such as Fancy Pants. If you haven’t played Fancy Pants, try to find a few minutes to do so. It’s liberating (your character jumps all over the place), and addictive. You can play Fancy Pants at other sites, but its developer is about to release a sequel, and that will be exclusive to Kongregate.
The company has won seed funding from a number of investors, including Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder Joe Kraus, co-founder of Excite and JotSpot, Joi Ito, an investor in Technorati, and Jeff Clavier, another angel investment with prior social networking investments.
Founder Jim Greer was previously technical director at Club Pogo, where he watched that company grow to have 1.4 million subscribers paying $6 month or $40 a year. Along with premium features, ads and downloadable game sales, Club Pogo is making roughly $70 million a year, he said.
Greer has the game chops, and knows how to build community. The platform looks spiff for just nine months of work. The trick is whether Greer’s team, mainly engineers, will be able to cut the distribution deals they need with large portals, to win traffic. They’ve picked some investors with good contacts. Kongregate faces two of tough competitors, neither of which offers as many social and open sourced features. But they’re also unlikely to stand still. They are Miniclip.com, which has significant traffic and has several years’ head start, and Shockwave, now part of Viacom, and boasting tens of millions of monthly unique users.
See screenshot of FancyPants page below. Arrows pointing to the right show the social areas, such as avatars of your friends, and the place for chat, and comments; the arrow pointing left shows a contest under way. (Note: The social areas are devoid of friends/avatars and chat in this image, but that’s because we got a sneak peak of the version to be released tomorrow, and nobody was playing yet).
[Update: The seed funding was $1 million, Techcrunch has since reported]